As it turns out, this exact question has created a divide among teeth-savvy pros across America. Edmond R. Hewlett, DDS, a spokesperson for the American Dental Association and a professor at UCLA, for instance, says flossing should always get first dibs. Granted, his rationale is more psychological than dental: “Let’s face human nature. If you’re going to skip one, which one will you skip?” he tells The New York Times blog. Flossing, he figures. One of the more frequently heard cases for flossing before brushing (and a favorite among dental hygienists) is that flossing first stirs up food particles and plaque that your toothbrush can then usher away more easily. Both arguments are convincing, but then again, the team on the opposite side of the dental ring has some compelling evidence, too.
Philippe Hujoel, DDS, a professor of oral health sciences at the University of Washington recommends brushing your pearly whites with fluoride toothpaste before going to town with the floss. Why? So that you’ll still have fluoride (AKA, “nature’s cavity fighter”) in your mouth when you string the floss through your teeth. Plus, doing so before you spit into the sink will guarantee that at least a small fraction of the toothpaste’s ingredients work their magic in the tinier nooks and crannies of your choppers.
The conclusion here is that brushing and flossing are to your dental routine what strength training and cardio are to your fitness one. Doing them both is what’s most important for your overall health.
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